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After the completion of the book, it had let me to believe the book was written for the general audience. Although the author provided many resources, the information was taken from literature that was written during the time. Therefore, some of the quotes were biased either against or favored Cleopatra. For an example of bias against her, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus called her a “wicked creature, who was a slave to her lusts, but she still imagined that she wanted everything she could think of, and did her utmost to gain it…. As for Antony, he was so entirely overcome by this woman that… he was some way or other bewitched to do whatever she would have him do.” On the contrary, here is an example of bias in favor of Cleopatra: “a princess well versed in the sciences, disposed to the study of philosophy and counting scholars among her intimate friends. She was the author of works on medicine, charms, and other divisions of the natural sciences.” This was taken from a tenth-century Arab historian Al Masudi. The author allowed his readers to conclude their own interpretation of Cleopatra by stating both sides of the story.
The book was broken down into eight chapters. These chapters spanned the time from 332 B.C. to 30 B.C. In the beginning of the book, it began the story of Cleopatra with Alexander the Great liberating Egypt from Persian control. However, the bulk of the chapters concentrated at 69 B.C. and ended 30 B.C. with the birth and death of Cleopatra. The story of Cleopatra began with her rein over Egypt as queen. This was when she allied and companioned with Caesar in attempt to strengthen her power. It was not long before Caesar was assassinated and his close friend and a powerful general Mark Antony denounced the conspirators. Not long after Caesar’s death, Antony and Cleopatra fell in love and ruled Rome and Egypt together. Together, they had formed an alliance strong enough to take down the most powerful force in the world at the time, Rome. The fall of Antony and Cleopatra began when they were defeated at Actium in Greece against Octavian’s Roman army. Towards the end of the book, the author went into details on the true love that existed between Antony and Cleopatra.
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After the research of the author, Don Nardo, he did not proved to be a reliable historian. Aside from being a writer, he is also an actor and a film director. He has written books such as biography of Thomas Jefferson, Joseph Smith, H.G. Wells, Charles Darwin, and Jim Thorpe. Among his writings are short stories, teleplays and screenplays for ABC television, and films. Although he wrote many books on historic figures and history topics, he did not prove to be an historian. He was not a specialist on a specific time in history. His books on historic figures were from different times.
The basic theme of the book concentrated on the social aspect of Cleopatra’s life. The book dedicated a chapter on her attempt to side with her subjects by dressing up as the goddess of Isis, ruler of heaven and earth. This had led some of her subjects to believing that the goddess communicated to humans through the queen. This book of Cleopatra’s story emphasized on how a woman ruler in a man’s world ruled a country and challenged the most powerful nation on earth.
The author did a good job with supporting his interpretation with sufficient factual information. He often referenced his interpretations with exerts from valid historians. For example, he assumed Cleopatra held a great deal of fortunes, which included gold, silver, and precious gems, as well as ample Egyptian treasury, with a passage from Pliny the Elder, Natural History, translated by H. Rackham. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967. She had boasted to Antony that she could spend ten million sesterces on a single meal for herself. “the servants placed in front of her only a single vessel containing vinegar, the strong rough quality of which can melt pearls. She was at the moment wearing in her ears that remarkable and truly unique work of nature… she took one earring off and dropped the pearl in the vinegar, and when it was melted swallowed it.” He also dramatized the events that led to her and Antony’s defeat. He noted that their army had outnumbered Octavian’s numerously, but due to their over confidence in victory, they had waited until Octavian challenged them.
As noted above, the author presented the good as well as the bad aspect of the events of Cleopatra. He provided ample information concerning her personality. The source cited came from reliable historians from different times.
Throughout the book, the author did not interpret the past in terms of the present, except for one instance when he compared the amount of sesterces to our current currency. The author also presented the story in chronological order, which made it easy for readers to understand the life of Cleopatra. In addition, he provided well-described details on the adversaries that Cleopatra had to face. For example, in the battle of Actium, he wrote, “Octavian lacked in numbers, but he had a talented, shrewd, and experienced admiral name Agrippa commanding his fleet.” This aided in the understanding of Antony and Cleopatra’s fleet defeat at sea. Throughout the entire book, it was easy to imagine myself in the time and situations Cleopatra had to face.
IV. Personal Opinion:
Overall, the book provided a pleasant experience in imagining myself in the story. It gave me a greater understanding of the life of Cleopatra. Most importantly, I now know the true immense power Rome held over the rest of Europe.
In addition, the book supplied several excerpts to further clarify topics. For example, to depict the lavish life style Cleopatra and Antony had, the author cited this from an excerpt of Plutarch’s life of Antony,”seeing eight wild boars roasting whole, says he, ‘Surely you have a great number of guests.’ The cook laughed at his simplicity, and told him there were not above twelve to sup, but that every dish was to be served up just roasted to a turn, and if anything was but one minute ill-timed, it was spoiled. And maybe Antony will sup just now, maybe not this hour, maybe he will call for wine, or begin to talk, and will put eating off. So that, it is not one, but many suppers must be had in readiness, as it is impossible to guess at this hour.’” In conclusion, this book presented interesting information on a more interesting historic figure.